— Helen Murphy (@lemurph) January 31, 2017
Source: @lemurph January 31, 2017 at 04:02PM
This week the lifestream reflects my conscious attempt to grapple with some of the academic and philosophical themes in the block reading. I’ve been trying on a posthumanist hat. It fits a lot better than it did on Monday.
I’ve used the lifestream this week to draw together definitions and, since then, to test my nascent understanding of these definitions. I found some of the secondary readings particularly impenetrable in places, and I think that is reflected in the speculative tone I’ve been adopting all week. A main theme is binaries: my interpretation of Bayne (2015) concluded with an assessment of her opposition to the abbreviation of complex assemblages. I picked up binaries again in a longer post about some of the secondary readings, a sort of meandering through some of the key ideas I’ve been encountering, and a brief sojourn in what this may mean for educational philosophy and pedagogy.
Another recurring theme in what I’ve written and produced this week has been the postness of posthumanism and its necessary relativity to the dominant ideas that preceded it and caused it. There’s an innate sense of the disruptiveness, the fracturing and splintering of ideas and identities, even the combativeness with which posthumanism takes on its humanistic, anthropocentric predecessors. This sits in contrast with the view expressed in a Desert Island Discs interview with the choreographer, Wayne McGregor. He argues in favour of a continuum between technology and the body, approbative rather than antagonistic.
So it’s been quite a theoretical week, in many ways, and as we enter Week 3, I’m hoping to switch my attention to concrete examples of the implications of cybercultures for educational practice.
In The Manifesto for Cyborgs, Haraway (2007) argues that “we are all chimeras, theorized and fabricated hybrids of machines and organisms” (p. 35). Haraway uses the cyborg as the metaphor for the post-war blurring of boundaries, for the disruption of the categories by which we organise: human and machine, physical and non-physical, etc.
In the excerpt in our reading by Hayles (1999), she takes on some of these ideas, encapsulating them in how she defines the ‘posthuman’. It “privileges informational pattern over material instantiation” (p. 2); it treats consciousness as “an evolutionary upstart” (p. 3), and it considers the body “the original prosthesis”. It’s an even more radical blurring of boundaries, a fracturing of identities and categories we use. The subject is now inescapably hybrid, embodied virtuality:
there are no essential differences or absolute demarcations between bodily existence and computer simulation, cybernetic mechanism and biological organism, robot teleology and human goals (p. 3)
So far, so good. Boundaries blurred, binaries overcome. We are all hybrids. With the philosophy in mind, I tried (and struggled) to connect this to education and pedagogy, and I found a really useful article by Gourlay (2012). Drawing on the work of Haraway and particularly of Hayles, she points to the relationship between the lecture and the VLE as an example of the blurring of virtual and embodied boundaries in education:
the binary is blurred in the context between face-to-face and online engagement, as the context increasingly allows simultaneous engagement with networks of communities and sources of information beyond the physical walls of the university (p. 208)
Gourlay argues that the VLE displaces the lecturer’s biological body, shifting it to the side, while the lecturer’s voice is relativised by the effects of the displacement. The voice becomes one among many as the new setting of the lecture destabilises authority and singularity. What the lecturer says may be questioned, instantly, by the information to which the student has access (although this didn’t feel particularly ‘new’ to me). For the student, the relationship between the lecture and the VLE allows for greater hybridity, which Gourlay describes as “cyborg ontologies” (p. 208).
Gourlay’s focus on voice provides a way to explore sound and the extent to which sound(s) are embodied or not; this reframes, to an extent, Sterne’s chapter in Critical Cyberculture Studies where he bemoans the sidelining of sound studies in cybercultures research.
Yet Sterne’s main point is that we can use sound as a way to trouble any certainty we may have developed in our understanding of what cyberculture ‘is’. One of the ways in which he uses sound is as a way to upset the status quo, to keep us from complacency, and as a barrier to essentialism. He uses it in a way which is relative to the ‘dominant’ approach as it attempts to disrupt it. And that got me thinking about the way we conceive of, and write about, posthumanism. We’re still speaking of posthumanism in relation to humanism; we’re still referring to the boundaries and the binaries even as we theorise overcoming them. We’re still thinking in terms of human and machine, face-to-face or online, virtual and embodied, lecture and VLE. To an extent, this is inescapable: hybridity is relative and subjective. But are there ways in which we can account for this in our educational practice?
Bayne, S. (2015). What’s the matter with technology-enhanced learning? Learning, Media and Technology, 40(1), 5:20. http://ift.tt/2kEs2zR
In this article, Bayne argues convincingly in favour of subjecting the term ‘technology-enhanced learning’ to a far more rigorous critique. This, she contends, would fruitfully draw on critical posthumanism, considerations of the boundaries of ‘the human’, and the inescapable politics of education, how we perceive of education’s function and purpose. In a deliciously meta move, she conducts such a critique, and concludes that – among other things – she was right to do so.
I was struck by the nuanced way in which Bayne describes the enmeshment of the term ‘TEL’, and the reality (if we can call it that) to which it shorthandedly refers. I liked how she used her critique of the term to inform and illuminate her critique of what it reflects, how it is used, and the political, social, educational situation which gave rise to it.
Bayne argues that technology and education are:
co-constitutive of each other, entangled in cultural, material, political and economic assemblages of great complexity
The term TEL, and what it implies, are flawed, because it doesn’t take account of this complexity. But what’s the alternative? It’d be a hard case to push to a VC that their new spangly TEL department should be renamed the ‘Department of Co-Constituitive Assemblages of Technology and Education’. DECATE for short. But I don’t think this is really what Bayne is getting at.
Instead, I think the real message underlying Bayne’s argument is contra shorthandedness in general – the lazy binary of technological determinism vs technological instrumentalism, and the assumptions that we might make about education and technology and the relationship between the two. Bayne’s rallying call, ultimately, is for a heck of a lot of critical thinking.
January 28, 2017 at 01:57PM
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I usually try to make a list of the definitions of any isms that I come across in reading, and I generally aim to do this by hand, rather than on the computer. Because I write by hand much slower than I can type, I think more carefully about the words that I use, and somehow that cements the definitions in my head a bit more.
So a few words that I’ve learned this week and last:
January 28, 2017 at 12:45PM
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I listened to this on the way to work yesterday, and Wayne McGregor – an award-winning choreographer, responsible for the Royal Ballet, had some fascinating things to say about technology and it’s relationship to the body. It’s definitely worth a listen (like all episodes of DID), but I transcribe below what I thought was particularly relevant:
“I’m fascinated by the technology of the body, I mean, if you think about the body as the most technologically literate thing that we have, in a world where technology is developing at a rate where we can experience our lives in really challenging and interesting ways. It just feels to me that the body is central to all those conversations”.
How is the body technologically literate? And is there a way of conceiving of this without being strictly anthropocentric?
from Tumblr http://ift.tt/2kdlbQV
This is a really interesting point, Philip – thank you for writing. I wonder in general about the privileging of ’emotion’ (over, perhaps, rationality?), even among humans, and whether that links in particular to the point you’ve made about the pre-programming of emotion.
Do you think this is reserved exclusively for androids? Or do you think there’s some sense of pre-programming of emotion among humans too? There appears to be some policing of emotions – in response to any event there is a spectrum of ‘normative’ emotions, and anyone behaving outside of that is treated as other, incorrect or suspicious. The digital space may affect this – allowing more or less freedom depending on the space, the possibility of anonymity, and a whole host of other factors.
I guess I’m just thinking aloud about whether we’re all (human, android, or otherwise) subjected to powerful forces which dictate the right way to behave AND the right way to feel. And – if this is the case – aren’t we all androids?
from Comments for Philip’s EDC blog http://ift.tt/2kE44Vm
I promised to include a screenshot of the applet I’m using for tweets because it appears to be generally working for me, and embedding the tweets properly. This is almost definitely a result of luck, not skill, and following Cathy’s instructions.
Either I should get a lottery ticket on the way home from work… or the applet will now break… 🙂
— Helen Murphy (@lemurph) January 25, 2017
Source: @lemurph January 25, 2017 at 04:24PM
This is the quote I’m referring to in my tweet:
Technology is only a tool if it can be used properly to inspire a student – Anthony Salcito, vice-president of Worldwide Education at Microsoft
It’s a weird set of words to put together – it’s ambiguous, and it’s taken me a few goes of reading through it to understand what it means. (I’m still not sure I do.) But if I were a proper critical posthumanist, what would I make of it?
On one hand, the technology is seen as exclusively material: it’s even further removed from being a ‘tool’, because it’s only a ‘tool’ if it meets certain conditions. So, not only does it require a separation of the material/technological and social, its status is dependent upon its being ‘used’ by humans in a certain way. Ergo: instrumentalist technology.
On the other hand, the technology has a ‘proper’ use – there is a way to use it properly, and if we humans are cognisant of this and able to use properly, it will ‘inspire’ our students. Ergo: determinist technology.
I’m also troubled by the use of this word ‘inspire’ – it’s so subjective, it privileges the human, it’s anthropocentric, and it’s difficult to see how it might escape a value judgment about what ‘learning’ is.
So technology-enhanced inspiration? Technology-inspired learning? No, thank you!
End of week 1, and the end of a busy old week for me. Work has been less ‘life-stream’, more ‘life-oh-look-the-dam-has-burst’, and it’s left me not only wishing I was at least a little more part-machine but also feeling a little behind in terms of study.
If I had to describe my lifestream activity this week in one word it would be tentative. I don’t really know what I’m doing yet, which is leading to me giving in to the pressure to create content for the sake of it, which is also leading to me having to constantly curate this blog to account for the fact that it’s mainly a random stream of consciousness. Yet too there’s a sense that the lifestream is meant to be a technological extension of my general contemplation on the course themes, and so the randomness of it would seem to fit.
My lifestream this week contains a few tweets about blog aesthetics, reminders of things I mean to read and think about (Donna Haraway), and a lot of Blade Runner. I got the latter off my chest in a blog post earlier today, where I wrote about empathy and what it means to be human, which led me towards the intersection between my consideration of course themes and what’s happening in the rest of the world. “Increasingly the body is seen as the principal site for the exercise of power and surveillance”, writes Miller (p. 209): in a week where the alleged number of bodies attending specific events is dominating the news, and where physical embodiment is seen as being politically relevant, this feels exceptionally well-timed.